Media pluralism: As the print industry, unlike radio and television, is not subject to licensing schemes requiring impartiality, it makes an important contribution to the diversity of published opinions. The high number of small and medium enterprises in the sector should be upheld. In some countries, however, media concentration has posed a threat to pluralism, the most outstanding example being Italy, where media power is not only more concentrated than in any other EU country, but it also is in the hands of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Migration to electronic media and convergence: As more and more people in the EU move towards obtaining their information from the internet, the challenge for the media industry is to develop sustainable business models for the online world. DG Information Society encourages the industry to establish business models in which content is paid for. So far, only a few such models exist, and where they do exist, their acceptance by consumers is not very high. The vast majority of newspapers and magazines' internet sites is cross-subsidised from the respective print products.
One problem for such business models is the competition from operators using information in the public domain, from licensed media such as national radio and TV stations and from other business models which do not charge users for content. Some of these business models - such as online advertising - are being taken up by the publishing industry, but in many cases they will yield lucrative revenues only in the future.
Out of the present revenue made from online content worldwide, the largest proportion is made in the US. Even when EU citizens look for EU-produced content, they use search engines rather than using information portals. All of the most commonly used search engines - such as Google, Yahoo!, MSN search and Altavista - are based in the US, and the money they make from context-sensitive ads is the most sizeable revenue made on the internet. France hopes to attack the US-based search engines with its government-funded 'Quaero' search engine project.
Addressing the European Publishers' Forum on 6 December 2005 in Brussels, Information Society Commissioner compared the challenges to the publishing industry to those the film industry is facing in chosing between 35 millimetre film and high definition video: "It’s still fine to make movies on film. Like paper, it is tried and tested. Film and print on paper both have the benefit of familiarity and a huge support infrastructure. But there will come a time when the benefits of electronic distribution become so great that the balance of advantage will tip towards the new medium. Look at all the savings to be made if film makers no longer have to make hundreds of celluloid prints costing several thousand euros each[...].
The challenge is to get the timing right – and not to lose the business to new entrants. Once that happens, it’s hard to recapture the initiative. If you don’t believe me, look at Kodak’s current advertising campaign to reinvent itself as a digital photography company, late in the day. Perhaps you are running that campaign in your own publications; maybe take the moral of that story as well as their money."
DG Information Society also thinks it can boost the industry through stronger protection for intellectual property rights and by establishing technological solutions to protect content from being freely distributed, namely digital rights management (DRM). Internet analysts doubt the effectiveness of such measures.
Advertising: The Commission recognises the importance of advertising for the newspaper and directory sectors and is therefore hesitant to burden those industries with more advertising regulation.
, the Commission asked stakeholders of the sector, civil society and public authorities the following questions:
"This staff working paper
- Does this paper accurately describe the main indicators for competitiveness across different publishing segments?
- Are there any further issues you would add in respect of publishing, notably with regard to the policy approaches set out in the Commission’s recent i2010 communication?
- Are current industry structures across all segments likely to survive the transition to electronic value chains? What are the major barriers and threats to publishers during the transition? What are the opportunities for publishers arising from new information and communications technologies?
- How will business models evolve and how far will Digital Rights Management systems be essential for their successful implementation?
The nature of the link between diversity of ownership and diversity of content
- How far is there tension between the need for open outcomes in economic terms at a time of rapid technological change and the political desire to support democratic values including diversity?
- How far is diversity of content and ownership likely to be self-sustaining in fully electronic markets, given for instance lower entry barriers to citizens’ direct
participation (eg blogs)?
- In converging markets, from the perspective of publishing, what approaches would you suggest for co-existence between the two different traditions of regulated, licensed broadcast media and unlicensed press?
Advertising; integrated media policy
- In relation to advertising regulation, what are your reasoned preferences in relation to the different instruments available, voluntary self-regulation, co-regulation and statute law?
- From the perspective of publishing, what are the main issues that an integrated media policy - i.e one that covers all media sectors - should address?"
The Commission received more than 30 responses to the consultation, from industry associations and individual companies as well as from NGOs and the governments of France, Germany and the UK.